I wrote a blog post at Cat’s Eye Writer last spring called “Blogging Is Writing Is Life.” My dad had just died and I wanted to celebrate his life.
One reader’s comment surprised me. She said, “When I found out your dad had died, I immediately thought about that post you wrote about trying to explain to him what a blog was. I felt like I knew him.”
This reader remembered a post I had written four months earlier.
I had written about winning a Top 10 Blogs for Writers award. I started with a story about how hard it was to get my dad to understand what blogging even is, let alone that I won an award. The scene was in my dad’s living room, after Christmas Eve dinner. It went something like this:
I spent part of Christmas Eve trying to explain to my dad what a blog is. I should have known it would be difficult, like the time I tried to show my mom how a fax machine worked. (I don’t blame her. Did any of us really understand that one?)
“But how do the words go through the phone line like that?” she asked.
I might have known that it would be impossible to explain what I do to someone who calls my voice mail an answering service.”
“I tried to call you yesterday, but I just got your answering service,” she said.
On Christmas Eve, after a couple of false starts, I told my dad, “Well, see, a blog comes through the computer. People subscribe to it—you know, kind of like your newspaper?
“You write stuff to help them solve their problems. They see how much you know and they start feeling like they can trust you. And some of them will become your clients.”
He squinted. “O-o-oh.”
I could tell he didn’t have a clue.
I used this story to capture my readers’ attention, to hook them into reading my post. I finished by leaving a linked list of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers winners and thanking my community for nominating me.
Why Readers Remember Blog Posts with Stories in Them
Stories stick with us because they make us feel. They appeal to our senses. They inspire us. They create images and emotions that stay with us long after the story is over.
My friend, the amazingly talented writer and blogger Victoria Mixon says, ” A good story is the stuff of life. The stuff that makes us cry, laugh, feel.”
5 Tips for Telling ‘Sticky’ Stories on Your Blog
1. Pull from a personal experience and relate it to your blogging topic.
You have life experiences that are unique to you. Use them. Maybe you are a top notch gardener. Or you have a love, passion and talent for cooking (neither of which I know anything about). Think of ways to apply what you know about that to your post’s topic.
I was a teacher once, so I tell stories set in the classroom from time to time, tying them to lessons in blogging. For instance, in Building a Bloggers’ Community: What I Learned at Recess, I created a scene with kids on a playground and compared it to building a positive, engaged blogging community.
In Why You Should Be a Copycat Blogger, I told the story of my beginning days as a teacher: how I was afraid I couldn’t do it, how I watched other teachers and shamelessly copied them. I then tied it to how as bloggers, we also try on ideas and strategies, looking for what works for us.
2. Set the scene and use sticky words.
Remember that Late Night with David Letterman episode, the one where Letterman, in a super-strength Velcro suit, jumped off a trampoline and attached himself to a wall? Picture your reader’s mind as the wall. Which words would be the Velcro—the ones that would stick? They are the words with sensory details, emotion, images.
In a post I wrote for Becky McCray’s blog, 5 Things I’ve Learned Since I Moved My Business to an Island, I started with a scene about missing the last ferry to the island and watching it float away, knowing I would be stuck in a hotel room for the night. :
Ferries that blow their horns on foggy days. That break down at the worst possible moment. Ferries that will take you back home if you show up before the last one leaves the dock, at 7:30pm sharp.
And if you drive up 10 seconds late, the ferry workers in their bright green vests are putting the orange cones in place, pulling the thick ropes in and locking the gates.
Once the reader was there with me, in the story, I could lead her to my main message: how our business model had to change when we moved to a remote island—and what we did to make it work.
3. Bring your characters to life with description and dialogue.
Paint a picture for us. Tell us what the person in your story looks like. Tell us what she said, with a line or two straight from her mouth. Whether it’s you talking or someone else, it brings us closer and makes us feel we are right there with you, in the story.
4. Transition from your story to the topic of your post.
Your story must have a point (see #5) and connect to your topic, so your reader will be taken seamlessly into your content. Sometimes I put a bolded sub-head in as simple as “What this has to do with blogging” to tie the story directly to the points I am making in my post.
5. Tell how the story changed you.
This is the powerful part. What did you learn? What did you take from your experience that you can apply to your business, your blogging, your writing? What can your readers take away?
Steve Martin summed it up in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, when he said to John Candy’s character, “And you know, when you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea: have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”
What about you?
Do you tell stories on your blog?
Are you pulled more into blog posts with stories?
Anything to add?